It had been raining on-and-off for weeks, and today wasn’t looking any better. It was the last thing anybody would want on their opening night. I stood at the lip of the stage and looked out over the historic Brookings Quad, watching cloud upon darkening cloud roll over campus. A drop. A trickle. A hustle of human motion behind me scurrying to throw tarps over expensive set pieces. Four months of my best work couldn’t come to an end like this, right? Less than an hour until the show’s start, and the sky lets loose.
Nobody means to rain on anyone’s parade, especially when it’s his or her own. My parade was named The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein, and Mother Nature had decided to pour on it. In that moment, I think back to seven months ago when I had decided to submit to All Student Theatre on a whim – or rather, on a friend’s recommendation.
All Student Theatre (AST for short) is one of three student theater groups on Washington University’s campus. Alongside Cast ‘n’ Crew, which specializes in conventional and homegrown theater, and Thyrsus, which deals in experimental theater forms, AST maintains the reputation of the only student theater group to dedicate itself to outdoor theater. Past year’s performances have included Urine Town, Our Town, The Physicist, and Rumors. Being constructed of and run by students only, AST asks those who are interested in directing their spring show to submit a play or musical of their choosing to the executive board. This is where I come in.
When I had received an email from AST garnering interest for directors, I thought back to a close friend of mine who insisted I submit Young Frankenstein – specifically because he’d rather act in it than direct. I had never directed anything more than a short sketch or a scene in a smaller show, but I figured college was about putting myself out there and trying new things I might enjoy. I submitted my name with Young Frankenstein, and a couple weeks later found myself pitching my idea via Prezi presentation to the AST executive board. I hardly believed that my show would be picked by any means, and I can’t truly speak to why my proposal was selected. What I do know is that the following process of bringing my vision to life on stage and working closely with a production team of 50 students fostered my love for AST and student theater in general.
What’s most important to me about AST is that anyone and everyone is encouraged to be involved in some way. We need actors, production team designers, deck crew, backstage hands, board ops, and sometimes even pit orchestra musicians! And once a student becomes involved in at least one AST, he or she becomes a part of the family from that point forward.
AST is all about family. Getting to see my show night after night during its run showed me that much. I had the opportunity to watch all the beautifully talented people I had worked for months with do what they do best and support each other in their hard work. And the most redeeming part was knowing I could share that family with the rest of WashU. It didn’t matter that it consistently rained for a week leading up to the show, even if that did make the process a bit more challenging. The clouds cleared right as the curtain went up opening night, and every show afterwards promised clear skies. If I could go back and do it all again, I would without hesitation. I guess the best I can do is do it all again next year!